A modern fable to ponder
I recently read this modern fable, and I’m still pondering it.
Upstream/Downstream: A Fable for Our Times
It was many years ago that villagers in Downstream recall spotting the first body in the river. Some old-timers remember how Spartan were the facilities and procedures for managing that sort of thing. Sometimes, they say, it would take hours to pull 10 people from the river and even then only a few would survive.
Though the number of victims in the river has increased greatly in recent years, the good folks of Downstream have responded admirably to the challenge. Their rescue system is clearly second to none: most people discovered in the swirling waters are reached within 20 minutes — many in less than 10. Only a small number drown each day before help arrives — a big improvement from the way it used to be.
Talk to the people of Downstream and they’ll speak with pride about the new hospital by the edge of the waters, the flotilla of rescue boats ready for service at a moment’s notice, the comprehensive plans for coordinating all the manpower involved, and the large number of highly trained and dedicated swimmers always ready to risk their lives to save victims from the raging currents. Sure it costs a lot, but, say the Downstreamers, what else can decent people do except to provide whatever is necessary when human lives are at stake.
Oh, a few people in Downstream have raised the question now and again, but most folks show little interest in what’s happening Upstream. It seems there’s so much to do to help those in the river that nobody’s got the time to check how all those bodies are getting there in the first place. That’s the way things are, sometimes.
Donald D. Ardell, PhD., adapted for MBSR by Geri C. Wilimek, MSW; LICSW
I’ll be honest; when I got to the end I flipped to the next page because I thought there was more to the story. Nope.
Which tells me I hadn’t gotten it yet.
It turns out the fable is about our health care approach. We treat the medical manifestations, more, and address the non-medical reasons behind them, less. For example, a person treated for chronic bronchitis but not asked about their living conditions and it turns out they live in a damp basement apartment. In my case, treating the skin surface for adult, pustular acne over a year before discovering my gut flora was way out of whack. (I now attend to ongoing gut health, and there simply is no acne to treat. Of course, and thank you.)
It seems our approach is an illness-care system rather than a health care system. I do believe this is evolving, however. More or less.
However, this isn’t where I went with the fable as I read it. I’ve had a longstanding personal metaphor about rivers and water that continues to help me learn more about control, responsibility, and flow. So while reading, I went to all these Upstreamers finally working with the flow of life rather than fighting the current, and all these Downstreamers obliviously thwarting that process while believing they are helping.
Our internal growth meets our external world.
Saying No, and then our friend is upset with us. Trusting our intuition but others validate through measurable criteria. Being circular, spiral, and often open-ended in process while the group recognizes linear, direct, and outcome-based movement . Placing value on feeling while our partner prioritizes thinking.
The re-balancing of Divine Feminine with Divine Masculine. Personally, and culturally.
I finally got in the river, and now I’m being “rescued.”
What did you feel and think as you read the fable? Does it apply to both physical health and mental health? How about spirituality?
What was your Aha?
Are you still pondering, too?